The focus of this blog is construction-related topics. The purpose is discussion, so please feel free to comment! See Specific thoughts for thoughts from the daily life of a specifier.

22 January 2012

3 reasons to not get certified

Aren't you tired of all this talk about certification? No one will tell you, but there are a few good reasons to save your time and skip the exams. Why waste the time and effort on something you probably don't need? If any of these reasons apply to you, sit back and relax - you're in great shape.

You're irreplaceable

Doesn't it feel great? The principals understand and love what you do, and the rest of the staff simply can't believe you know as much as you do. If you're a consultant, your clients realize there is no one else who can do the job quite as well as you. Sure, there might be other people who can do your job, but it's obvious to everyone, they are far less qualified. You're on top, and no one can take your place. Certification won't make you any more valuable.

You have a great job and you will never need another one

You have looked around, and it's clear there is no better place to work. You have a great compensation package, and, because you have been holding the same job almost twenty years, you know your firm or your clients are completely loyal. There is no way they would turn you loose or cut into your income or benefits. If you are approaching retirement, you know you will never need to work again. You're not going anywhere, and you don't need to be certified.

You make too much money

I'm sure you're quite comfortable with your salary, even after the sagging economy of the last few years. You make more than enough to take care of your needs, with plenty left over for your cabin, your annual vacation to the Bahamas, and your flourishing Keogh plan. Kids in college are no problem, and you may even have a fund set up for the grandchildren. You can't possibly make any more money even if you do get certified.

Reality check

I don’t know anyone who fits in any of these categories, and I don't know many people who would not benefit from certification. While certification won't make you irreplaceable, or ensure you'll keep your job, or get you a raise, it increases the possibility of all of those things.

Like it or not, the business world relies on credentials, at least for preliminary evaluation. A person who graduates from a school or apprenticeship program may have a good education, but when a company is hiring, the person with credentials is considered more valuable. A graduate architect or engineer has less to offer than a person with a professional license, and a master mason looking for work will have an advantage over an apprentice.

In the construction industry, CSI credentials are significant. As a specifier, I have great respect for the CDT. When new sales representatives visit my office, the first thing I look for on their business cards is CDT. If they have it, they automatically get more respect and credibility, because I know they are familiar with conditions of the contract and Division 01, and I know they have an understanding of the relationships between owner, designer, contractor, and supplier. If they don't have it, before they leave my office they get a brief sermon about the value of the CDT. I know I am not alone in this; virtually every specifier I know feels the same.

In my corner of the world, specifiers' jobs are rarely advertised; when positions open, architectural firms seek out those specifiers with the CCS, and recognize the value of the CCCA. Similarly, many manufacturers look for representatives with a CDT. Some require their reps to have a CDT; others may not have a formal requirement, but do encourage their reps to obtain CSI credentials.

When I became a specifier, I knew little about specifications and nothing about CSI. I had graduated from an accredited school of architecture, but the only reference to specifications I recall was a casual mention in our Professional Practice class. The school apparently believed there was nothing essential in contract documents - specifications or drawings, at least nothing that could not be picked up on the job with little effort.

Not long after taking the job, my boss suggested I join CSI. That being a time when a suggestion from the boss was tantamount to an order, I joined the local chapter, and quickly acquired CSI's Manual of Practice. Eureka! All was revealed! What previously had been a confusing collection of documents suddenly took on meaning, as, for the first time, I was able to see all of the documents as an integrated, coordinated whole. I joined the chapter study group, and passed the CCS exam about a year later. Without the understanding I gained from the MOP, and from studying for the exam, it would be much more difficult to do my job.

Well, it's certification season again. If you work with specifications, either preparing or reading them, I urge you to pursue CSI credentials. If you're new to the industry, studying for the CDT will be an eye-opening experience. If you've been around a while, but haven't taken the exam, you may be surprised to find that there is logic behind the documents and processes we use daily. "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." (Mark Twain? Will Rogers?)

Rather than give you all the details about this year's exam, and take the chance of providing the wrong information, I'll just refer you to There you will find everything you need to know about exam dates, registration for exams, and a free online seminar that will help you learn about the benefits of the CDT.


  1. Awesome! Thanks for injecting humor into this. I wish all my architect-clients would take the CDT exam.

  2. I realize the point that you are making but let me introduce myself as a person who meets all your categories that you claim you have never heard of.

    I am at the top of my field, I have never used a resume, my name proceeds me.

    I pick the jobs I want and I enjoy what I do.

    I set my fee, I've lived by cash only, I have no debt. I clearly understand that money does not bring happiness.

    I am one happy guy. (and that's no joke)

    Just to let you know, there are plenty of us out there.....

  3. I cannot, cannot, cannot stress enough how well you've hit the nail on the head in the Reality Check portion. I second every one of your points, from what you were taught in school, to the Eureka! moment. As someone who is 5 years removed from school, and just passed the CDT, it removed a huge cloud of mystery and confusion behind the process. Or should I say, the process IN THEORY. Because until the people above you understand the logic behind the process, than in practice it's really the blind leading the blind. Now that I've seen how it's "supposed to be done," I can't help but examine how it's getting done in reality, and why...("well, that's the way we always did it!")